Department Publication

War and Nature

Fighting Humans and Insects with Chemicals from World War I to Silent Spring

( Cambridge, February 2001 )

If there's one lesson to be learned from the study of nature it's that everything is connected. Russell's innovative and illuminating study of the nexus between chemical warfare and insecticides draws unexpected and provocative parallels between mankind's chauvinistic attitude toward nature and our urge to exterminate people designated as the enemy and therefore less than human. While humans gassed each other, fleas and mosquitoes, carriers of typhus fever and malaria, posed as much of a threat to U.S. troops in the two world wars as the Germans and the Japanese. In spite of its known hazards, DDT was touted as the miracle cure, both on the battlefield and at home, where agriculture was rapidly industrialized. As Russell traces the inexorable progression from chemical weapons and insecticides to nuclear weapons, it becomes clear that big business and government always have been willing to compromise human and environmental well-being in pursuit of profit and military might.

Corcoran Department of History
University of Virginia
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